Munich (2005)

The year is 1972. We’re in Munich, at the Summer Olympics. A terrorist group manages to take eleven people hostage. The news reports claim that, after a standoff, all of the hostages have been released without harm. Moments later, we learn that this wasn’t the case, and that all eleven were actually killed. We don’t see it, originally, although our main character will have imaginary flashbacks about what could have happened.

If that basic set-up sounds familiar to you, then either congratulations for paying attention in history class. or good job for being alive for an remembering the ’72 Olympics. If not, then this film will hope to fill you in on the retaliation that’s going to occur after these murders. Director Steven Spielberg, basing his film on the book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, is using the basic events and creating a very long film about them. Character interactions are all made up, but the basic idea is the same, or so we’re supposed to believe.

Our lead is Eric Bana, playing a man named Avner Kaufman. He’s married and his wife is expecting, although he’s about to leave her for many months, with the possibility existing that his operation will consume years of his life. He has been hired by the Israeli government, presumably someone he has worked for before, to track down and kill eleven men who were responsible for either executing or planning the Munich slaughter. Geoffrey Rush represents the government, and after some humor dialogue, tells Avner that he’ll have a crew, near-unlimited funds, and as much time as he needs. He just has to quit his real job and forfeit his dental insurance.

Avner’s group consists of four other men. Steve (Daniel Craig) is the driver and the most trigger happy, Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz) makes bombs, Hans (Hanns Zischler) can forge documents, and Carl (CiarĂ¡n Hinds) cleans up after a murder has taken place. To locate their targets, they use a French informant, Louis (Mathieu Amalric), who charges them $200,000 per name. This type of information isn’t cheap, although since it’s coming out of the Israeli government’s pockets, Avner doesn’t seem to have any problem spending it.

To go any further would be spoiling, but you have the basic idea. There are many murders, many of which don’t go quite according to plan, and improvisation is required from all characters. A bomb is too weak, only wounding the target. Another is too strong, and almost kills a team member. Soon enough, paranoia sets in, and individuals begin to wonder if everyone — including their own government — is out to get them. While this is mostly a story of revenge, the characters get more focus than the killings.

Munich is an involving and educational film, but ultimately not a very exciting one. If you’re expecting a thrill-ride, you’ll want to look elsewhere. While the material is here is right, the story that Spielberg wants to tell isn’t. He’s not particularly interested in giving the audience cheap thrills. He want you to invest in these characters, care what they care about, and then contemplate the moral dilemma(s) that they encounter for yourself. This is a film with a lot of depth, as it should considering it runs for over 160 minutes.

That is ultimately too long of a running time, as Munich runs out of steam at around 130 minutes in. After that, it felt as if there was padding, and nothing that happened really felt as if it mattered. Even then, we only get definite closure thanks to a text overlay that tells us how everything played out. If some of the murders easily could have been shorter, this might have been an easier film to forgive after it ends.

Munich‘s biggest problem, at least, in terms of watching it a second time, is that it’s not all that enjoyable to watch. That doesn’t make it a bad film by any means, but it’s just unpleasant. I don’t even mean that it’ll make you emotional or anything like that; it just doesn’t contain any true joy or moments of levity. Sitting through this for a second time, now knowing how the film ends and not having that anticipation keeping my attention, might be a really unenjoyable time. Don’t take that as a knock on the film, but it might mean that you won’t want to buy it on a whim, as once you see it for the first time, it’s possible that you’ll never want to see it a second, even if you thought it was a good movie.

What makes it a good movie are the actors, all of whom do a great job with their roles. Eric Bana is stronger here than in anything else I’ve seen him in. The supporting cast members are largely ignored, but they do enough with their characters to make them standout. Given that this is a character drama, we need strong actors who are given good dialogue. Both of those get a check mark next to their box, and it’s because of these two factors that Munich is a good film.

While you might not enjoy the time you spend with it, it’s easy to appreciate Munich. Based on true events, it takes facts and forms a narrative around them. This is a somber film, filled with little joy but lots of personalities which all shine through thanks to the actors. No, it’s not a lot of fun to sit through, and I don’t see myself watching it again anytime soon, but for one viewing, it’s a good film and I would recommend giving it a watch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Post